Donald H. Driemeier, Deputy to the Chancellor
As Chancellor George said in my introduction, this represents
the 108th consecutive commencement of the University of Missouri-St.
Louis that I have attended. It also means that I have attended
every commencement in the history of this campus' history.
That will cause most of you immediately to ask, "How crazy
is this man?" I do understand that, and I will talk a little
later about why I don't see it as being quite so crazy.
let me reflect for a moment on the fact that I have listened to
107 other commencement speeches and the thing that stands out about
most of those speeches
is their length. There seems to be a positive relationship between the quality
of the speech as perceived by the listener and its brevity. I want you to think
of this as a quality speech, and in order to facilitate that I have brought my
watch. Further, the good news is that I know how to read it.
Now to the matter
of why in the world would someone attend so many commencements.
The answer lies in the first point that I would make this evening. Commencements
are appropriate and necessary celebrations of significant accomplishment. My
attending so many commencements had to do with my desire to celebrate a meaningful
achievement with our graduates Going to commencement for me is every bit an important
part of my faculty member obligation as is showing up to teach class.
you here has your own story as to how long and difficult this task
of completing your degree has been. For each of you in your own
accomplishment deserves to be a celebration for you, your family, and your close
friends who have been a part of your degree seeking conquest. So the first thing
I want to leave you with is that today is a day which should be unashamedly a
day of celebration.
The second thing that I would like to encourage you to do
as a graduate of UMSL is to honor the past. Many of you graduates
have experienced the opening of the
Millennium Student Center and more recently the completion of this Touhill Performing
Arts Center while you were students. Yet, those students who will enroll here
for the first time this fall will take these buildings and every other attribute
of UMSL for granted. They will enjoy these new facilities, use our new parking
garages but have little understanding of what a "big deal" these
accomplishments represent. It is for that reason that I would encourage you,
as you celebrate your degrees, to give some thought to honor the activities of
the past that have made your degrees and their substantial worth possible.
of the best ways I know of honoring the past is to tell the stories of the
persons and events that have shaped it. As I was preparing for
this talk, it
struck me that I was in a unique position to do that at this graduation from
the Barnes College of Nursing, the joint Engineering Program and the College
of Business Administration.
As the former Dean of the College of Business Administration
for 15 years, I obviously am in a position to reflect upon it and
its significance to the
but I also have some insight to the development of our College of Nursing and
its merger with Barnes College during a period when I was serving as Deputy
to Chancellor Blanche Touhill. Further, it was during the period of time when
was serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs that we negotiated
the joint undergraduate engineering program with Washington University. Let
me reflect briefly on the development of each of these colleges, specifically
a manner which will give you graduates a greater understanding for, and pride
in, for the degrees which you will shortly hold.
It has always been a vision
of those of us on this campus that we would have an engineering
program. As a matter of fact, I can recall arguments during
our first long-range plan as to whether or not we would begin undergraduate
in the fall of 1972 or whether we would have to wait until 1973. Oh, what optimists
we were! Because, of course, it was 20 years later before we were able to introduce
engineering as an option for students in our service community. Even then,
it had to be a program for people who could be described as non-traditional.
is, those who were slightly older and who would be pursuing the program on
a part-time basis.
Why did this take so long? The answer lies in a number of
factors. The cost of establishing the program certainly could be
said to be one, but the main
was the existence of two schools of engineering within the Missouri system
and the misplaced assumption that students in St. Louis who wanted to pursue
were not place bound. Happily the cooperative program we developed with Washington
University allowed us to avoid the purchase of expensive duplicate equipment
and more efficiently use the facilities and resources which Washington University
already possessed. Clearly the graduates we recognize tonight are products
of a unique public-private partnership which without harm to them provides
public education at a reasonable cost to Missouri taxpayers.
Our first nursing
degrees were offered in 1983 when our School of Nursing was given
the right to offer an undergraduate Bachelor of Science completion
This meant that for the first time at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
those residing in the state's largest city and an internationally recognized
health center could be given additional training and a baccalaureate degree
to those who already possessed a registered nurse certificate. The importance
our merger with the Barnes College of Nursing is emphasized by the fact that
it was only through that merger that the University of Missouri-St. Louis obtained
the right to offer a 4-year baccalaureate degree in nursing to students who
had began their career here as a freshman.
Why did it take the merger with
Barnes College to grant our students this option in such an important medical
center? I guess it would have to be the fact that
others who already possessed that right appeared to do everything possible
to limit UMSL expansion to meet the needs of our constituents. This is the
that our work to negotiate an effective merger stands so strategically in
The College of Business Administration represents a story
that is less dependent upon a specific event of partnership or
merger in its history, but one that
has been more independent upon steady and significant growth. We have been
degrees in business administration since our first class graduated in 1967.
Many of our founding faculty (those who joined us during our first 10 years)
retired, moved to other opportunities, or reached their final reward. Happily,
a few of founding faculty are still with the university in various capacities
and represent the kind of dedication to students and campus that has always
prided its faculty.
Again, as with the nursing and engineering graduates,
our business graduates enjoy the production of many years of hard
work by a faculty that was dedicated
to providing the best training for graduates who ultimately would be employed
in the St. Louis community. Happily we have seen any number of these individuals
recognized by our alumni associations and by our campus.
What do these stories
have in common? They are stories of a faculty who is dedicated
to provide the very best for our students and a faculty and administration
would not take no for an answer when no was not in the interest of the university,
our students, or our community. This is the reason that I encourage you to
understand the struggle that accompanied our ability to award you these degrees
the individuals and the institution that has made that possible.
request of you today that as of you in you own way make a commitment
to do your part to see that the logical future of this institution not be
smothered. As a public institution serving the state's largest population
with a faculty that is exceptionally talented, the University of Missouri-St.
Louis can and
should be one of those institutions founded in the decade of the late 50's
and early 60's who will cast a long shadow on the educational landscape.
We are on the right trajectory. That trajectory may not be as steep or as
rapid a climb as some of us would have liked, but nonetheless we are headed
year in the right direction. Importantly, we have avoided making a fatal
mistake that would have put us on the wrong course. It is my challenge to
you our graduates
to make sure that this institution continues to be nourished in ways that
will allow it to reach its full potential. Be assured that job will not be
chancellor in the history of UMSL has had to argue about equity for this
campus. As recently as last spring, Chancellor George had to argue to make
equity money forwarded by the legislature for this campus would come to support
our students and our faculty. He will need your help and others that follow
him will continue to need your help.
It has been a significant honor to be
asked to give this commencement address in the month of my pending retirement.
Please remember three things: take
time to celebrate your achievements, continue to honor those who have brought
and this campus this far, and make the commitment that 45 years from now – when
the campus celebrates its 82nd anniversary – the University of Missouri-St.
Louis will be an even greater, more productive and prestigious institution.